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Playoff Primer: Dallas Cowboys Defensive Ends

Sean Martin

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Tyrone Crawford, Carson Wentz, Eagles

What if the defensive ends on the Dallas Cowboys are actually...wait for it...good? Sure, this team's pass rush as a whole isn't dominant, with defensive end being a position Cowboys Nation expects to see addressed in the offseason, but things could have been a lot worse this season when it comes to Rod Marinelli's defense getting after the quarterback.

For now, the pass rushers on this team are going to be called upon to continue to get the job done in the playoffs, and its time to study this position further with some Dallas Cowboys Playoff Primer.

Benson Mayowa, Ereck Flowers, Giants

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Benson Mayowa

Benson Mayowa may very well have to be the Cowboys' best defensive end this postseason. Relatively well rested, Mayowa saw Randy Gregory get some of his snaps over the last two weeks of the regular season, only to be suspended again for the playoffs and 2017.

Rushing solely from the right defensive end position, Mayowa - when he wants to - shows the skill that Dallas saw in him this offseason to sign the young rusher to a three-year deal. If he's not attacking left tackles right down the middle and getting held in check at the line of scrimmage, Mayowa is bending around the corner with violent hands and pressuring the quarterback.

Undoubtedly the best true RDE this team has for the playoffs, Mayowa is going to need to prove his worth by giving maximum effort over potentially the next three weeks.

David Irving

David Irving has burst onto the scene with the Cowboys this season, jump starting his career under defensive-line guru Rod Marinelli after signing with Dallas in 2015. With three sacks in his last three games, Irving has found ways to get to the quarterback more consistently both as a defensive end and interior tackle.

Primarily playing as an end during his recent hot streak, David Irving has found a way to set up unsuspecting right tackles with some polished counter moves and surprising bend to go with his freakish length and athleticism.

In the Cowboys' previous meeting with the Green Bay Packers, Irving was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week by forcing three fumbles and sacking Aaron Rodgers once despite playing just 19 snaps.

Wherever he lines up this week and throughout the playoffs, opposing offenses are going to have to be aware of #95 in white, which is something we didn't necessarily expect to say about many Dallas defenders this season.
Tyrone Crawford

Tyrone Crawford

Tyrone Crawford is somewhat of a man without a position on the Cowboys defensive line right now, despite being their highest paid player. Once thought to be in store for a big season at the 3T DT position, Crawford has been forced to play at left defensive end due to injuries and lack of depth.

It hasn't been all bad for Crawford as an edge rusher though, as he will flash at times as a pass rusher, while always playing as a formidable strong side run defender.

Getting around the edge with Tyrone Crawford playing LDE will be a tall task for the Packers running game, especially with the Cowboys' cast of linebackers rallying to the ball around him. If Crawford can also find a spark over the next few weeks as a pass rusher, the Dallas Cowboys' defensive line will turn into one of the strongest remaining in the playoffs.


Who would have thought?

Jack Crawford

Jack Crawford is the "Mr. Do It All" of the Cowboys' defensive front, back in 2016 on a one-year deal to add depth as a situational rusher at multiple positions.

While Crawford's impact in the playoffs will realistically be pretty marginal, he is a legitimate and athletic piece to this defense - fitting the mold seen throughout this "orphan" lineup.

Gone are the days of non-scheme fits like Nick Hayden eating up snaps defensively for the Cowboys, because they have a player like Jack Crawford to give them maximum effort as a speed rushing end and penetrating defensive tackle when called upon.

If Dallas isn't going to blitz Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, opting instead to play coverage, the next best thing they may be able to do is unleash Jack Crawford on some obvious passing downs.

DeMarcus Lawrence, Aaron Rodgers, Packers

Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

DeMarcus Lawrence

I saved DeMarcus Lawrence for last in this Playoff Primer, and it's because we need to have a talk about the Cowboys' young defensive end. Just you and I.

When things looked darkest for this defensive line coming into the season, we all took just a bit of solace in the fact that this "emerging star" in Lawrence was going to be on the field.- at least after his four game suspension, handed down as a result of his back injury and the drugs he used to deal with it.

While I joined in on my fair share of hype with Cowboys Nation for Lawrence's 2016 campaign, a part of me always thought that his season would turn out just like this. 

Lingering back injuries have kept Lawrence out of the last four games, and the six he's played have resulted in just one sack. DeMarcus Lawrence was asked to be the guy this season for the Cowboys pass rush, but has always profiled more like a second rusher.

The hope is that Dallas, who will gladly welcome a "second rusher" in DeMarcus Lawrence to join the rotation they'll undoubtedly be relying on over the coming weeks, gets something positive out of Lawrence to refocus with their 2014 draft pick for 2017.

The explosive play has not been there for Lawrence this season like it was in 2015 though, and I highly doubt it will return in time for him to take over games when they matter the most.


To conclude Playoff Primer here at Inside The Star, I'll be looking at the secondary with the safeties and corner backs prior to Sunday's Divisional Round game at AT&T Stadium.

Tell us what you think about "Playoff Primer: Dallas Cowboys Defensive Ends" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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Cowboys Wishlist: Dress Rehearsal Edition

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Rookie Report: Which Cowboys Draft Picks Stood Out Against the 49ers?

In the NFL, the third preseason week is often referred to as the "Dress Rehearsal." It's usually the week in which starters get the most playing time. That has changed lately, with plenty of teams deciding to take care of their key players instead of risking them on the field. However, the Dallas Cowboys have played their starters on their first two games and there's no reason to believe that will change versus the Texans today.

Here is my wishlist for the Cowboys vs Texans "Dress Rehearsal!" Let me know what your wishes for tonight's game are in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!

Wish #1: Justin Phillips Locks Up a Roster Spot

Phillips has been one of the most surprising players this offseason and preseason. The Cowboys are set at linebacker, but Phillips has made sure to be a tough guy to cut. Last week, he had a remarkable interception against the Rams. Despite making a first step toward the line, he managed to adjust and made the play. He has followed it up with more plays in practice.

If he keeps it up, the Cowboys won't be able to cut him. He has the potential to be a force on special teams and a quality backup.

Can WR Devin Smith Sneak Onto the Dallas Cowboys 53-Man Roster?

Dallas Cowboys WR Devin Smith (AP Photo / Josie Lepe)

Wish #2: Devin Smith Makes Things Interesting

The battle for the final wide receiver spots is at full-go. Devin Smith has shined lately, and has risen as a serious candidate to make the roster. However, it seems like other wide receivers have the upper-hand as of now. Earlier this week, I made my Cowboys WR Power Rankings and had Devin Smith at #7.


His TD catch versus the Rams last week was pretty impressive, and I wish he makes a few more plays to make the debate all the more interesting.

Wish #3: Tony Pollard Does It Again

Fifth-round rookie Tony Pollard stole was the show last weekend as he racked up 51 total yards (five carries, one catch) and a touchdown on Dallas' first offensive drive. He looked impressive as the starting running back, giving us just what we wanted to see.

While many have advertised him as a gadget player, Pollard proved he can actually be a "standard" RB. He ran between the tackles, showed power, balance and great vision. I'm ready to watch it again, this time versus the Texans.

Cowboys Need More From Randy Gregory and Taco Charlton 1

Wish #4: Taco Charlton Shines Rushing The Passer

Taco Charlton has made a couple of plays in preseason on his third year with the Dallas Cowboys. Against the Rams, he batted down two passes and looked good separating from opposing offensive linemen. Charlton has gotten praise from some analysts during these first two preseason weeks.

But I want to watch some quality pass rush from his part. Right now, the Cowboys' roster counts with some promising players, including rookies Jalen Jelks and Joe Jackson. While they're currently below Taco, he must prove he belongs on the roster.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Wishlist: Dress Rehearsal Edition" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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Cowboys’ Tight End Marcus Lucas with Huge Opportunity vs the Houston Texans

John Williams

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Cowboys' Tight End Marcus Lucas with Huge Opportunity vs the Houston Texans

With only two preseason games remaining, opportunities to make a statement are growing thin. The Dallas Cowboys have very few spots on the roster available, especially at the tight end position where Jason Witten, Blake Jarwin, and Dalton Schultz appear to have the depth chart locked down. The problem is, Jarwin and Schultz have been dealing with injuries and missed the second preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams and probably won't play against the Houston Texans tonight.

Enter Marcus Lucas.

Marcus Lucas hasn't been a member of the Dallas Cowboys for very long, but he's already made an impact.

In his first preseason game with the Dallas Cowboys, Lucas caught four passes on four targets for 20 yards. His receptions went for two, seven, five, and six yards for an average of five yards per reception. He did have a holding penalty that cost the Dallas Cowboys 10 yards on a first down play that didn't go anywhere anyway.

Though Lucas has bounced around NFL practice squads, he's never really found a home. After going undrafted in 2014, Lucas was signed by the Carolina Panthers in May of that year but wasn't able to stick on the 53-man roster and was released and placed on the practice squad. In 2015, he was on the Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears practice squads. In 2016, the Panthers brought him back in the summer after the Bears released him from their 90-man roster. That September after cut-down day, the Seattle Seahawks signed Lucas to their practice squad where he spent all of 2016. From 2017 to the end of 2018, Lucas spent time with the Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions, the Seattle Seahawks again, and the San Francisco 49ers. He was with the 49ers in 2019 before joining the Dallas Cowboys about two weeks ago and will get an extended run in these final two preseason games.


At Thursday's practice, Lucas was the only tight end available with Jason Witten getting a rest day and Jarwin, Schultz, and fellow Tight End Cody McElroy dealing with injuries.

Todd Archer on Twitter

With Jason Witten getting a day of rest, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz and Codey McElroy injured, the Cowboys have one tight end practicing today: Marcus Lucas, who has been with the team for about two weeks.

It's possible that Lucas may get an extended amount of playing time tonight with an opportunity to show the Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the NFL that he's ready to land on a 53-man roster. With likely only Jason Witten being the only other tight end active for the game against the Houston Texans, Lucas will get a lot of playing time. If his last preseason exposure is any indication, he'll get the chance to display his receiving prowess.

At 27, Lucas likely has few opportunities left to make his mark for an NFL franchise. On a team that proclaims the "next man up" as a battle cry, after Witten, Lucas is the next man up for tonight and depending on his performance could make the Dallas Cowboys front office or another front office around the league take notice.

Depending on the long-term health of the Dallas Cowboys' tight end position, Lucas may find his path to a roster spot simply dependent upon the health of Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz. Though a job may not come with the Dallas Cowboys, tonight is an extremely important audition for his next suitor. How he performs tonight could land Marcus Lucas a job after the Dallas Cowboys trim the roster to 53 next week.

They say "preseason games don't matter," but to Marcus Lucas, this might be the most important game of his career.


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Don’t Forget Special Teams Value in Cowboys Roster Decisions

Jess Haynie

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C.J. Goodwin

Building a 53-man roster in the NFL is a complex formula, requiring balance between numerous positions on each side of the ball. But what often gets overlooked in our analysis as outsiders is special teams, and that's a huge factor for many of the Dallas Cowboys players hoping to make it past final cuts.

Some players have survived in the league by being just good enough at their listed positions but excelling in special teams roles. You may think of former Dallas safety Bill Bates, who was personally responsible for a special teams player being made part of the annual Pro Bowl roster. A more recent example would be Keith Davis, who was an adequate safety but a special teams ace for several seasons.

To be sure, someone is going to be on this 2019 Cowboys more for their special teams value than their actual offensive or defensive ability. Who might he, or they, be?

One candidate is veteran Cornerback C.J. Goodwin. He is considered an exceptional talent in coverage on punts, which is probably the only reason he's still in the NFL today. At age 29, Goodwin has never really emerged as a consistent contributor on defense.

Young players like Donovan Olumba or rookie Michael Jackson, if not already superior cornerbacks to Goodwin, have far more upside to keep on the roster. But

considering how little they may get on the field anyway as the fifth or sixth corners, you can see why special teams value becomes so important. It may be the only time you actually see them in the game.

If the Cowboys don't want to lose a young prospect but can't let go of Goodwin's special teams ability, it may prompt them to go long at the CB position. But that means taking a roster spot from some other position, and thus the balancing act continues.


Don't Forget About RB Jordan Chunn in the Cowboys Backfield

Dallas Cowboys RB Jordan Chunn

Another player to watch in this discussion is second-year an Running Back Jordan Chunn. He doesn't have Alfred Morris' experience or maybe Mike Weber or Darius Jackson's rushing talent, but he has been showing up on the special teams units.

Yesterday, Cowboys insider Bryan Broaddus called Chunn "a better Rod Smith" in analyzing his chances of making the roster. If you don't recall, Jaylon's older brother was a solid RB but a standout special teams player in his few years with Dallas.

As we just mentioned with the 5th/6th CB slots, the third running back is not a guy you expect to see much on offense. That will be especially true this year as Dallas will be struggling just to give rookie Tony Pollard the touches he deserves as the number-two RB.

Given that, special teams play becomes vital for the value of whoever is behind Zeke and Pollard on the depth chart. If Jordan Chunn is superior to his competition in that regard, it could negate whatever he lacks as an actual running back.

This same conversation can be had throughout the roster. It's why Noah Brown might make the team over more traditionally gifted receivers, or why a certain linebacker or safety might be more valued than others.

We make the common mistake of referring to "both sides of the ball" when we talk about football teams. There are three sides; special teams can't be underestimated. It will certainly play a part in how the Dallas Cowboys finalize their 53-man roster this season and in years to come.


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